Fantasy Cycling tips - La Flèche Wallonne
GC contenders make an appearance as things get hilly in Belgium
Heads up! Incoming! There's no let up as the Classics season enter its last few days. The Flèche Wallone is the sixth race in our season-long Fantasy Cycling competition, brought to you in association with Evans Cycles, and it's on Wednesday, not Thursday as previously advertised (sorry). That means you have until tomorrow morning to get your team ready. Transfer deadline is at 10am on Wednesday.
Depending on your point of view La Flèche Wallonne (the Wallonne arrow) is either the second, or the first, of the Ardennes classics (traditionalists don't count the relatively recent Amstel Gold which is also a Dutch race while La Flèche and Liege Bastogne Liege are Belgian). Way back in the day the two Belgian races were held on successive day - hopefully not when the course for La Flèche ran to 300Km… but they were tough back in those days so we're sure there won't have been any complaints even if it did.
What the trio of Amstel Gold, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Flèche Wallone all have in common is that they are hilly races – La Flèche finishes on top of the Mur de Huy - which doesn't really make it a race for the sprinters.
The roster for Flèche Wallone is broadly similar to Sunday's Amstel Gold race, with mostly minor squad changes within the teams (although some have changed more than others...) and a couple of extra invites for the second tier squads of FDJ and Saur-Sojasun, with Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli dropping out.
One Alberto Contador (SBS) is also down to start, the first time we've seen the controversial Saxo Bank - Sungard team leader in Fantasy Cycling this season. Currently he's selected by just 50 or so of the 2,300 teams: is that a reflection of his current popularity or simply the fact that he hasn't been riding? Certainly he's in with a shout if the bookies are to be believed, a quick trawl reveals he's second favourite at 13/2 behind Amstel runner-up Joquim Rodriguez (4/1), with Ivan Basso and Phillipe Gilbert 10/1 each right now.
J-Rod was runner-up last year, so has the old course and distance; 2010 winner Cadel Evans is not racing, out injured. At the shakedown last year Contador went early on the Mur de Huy, but Evans timed his attack to perfection. It's a brutal finale, and fantastic to watch.
Over at Leopard Trek it's time for Spartacus to take a break, but that doesn't mean that the Luxembourg outfit are fielding a weak team. Both Schlecks will be on the start line, backed up by Jakob Fuglsang, Jens Voigt and Fabian Wegmann among others. In fact across the board it's the time in the season we start to see the big hitters, with the crash-happy cobbles (mostly) behind the peloton. Fully half of the Fantasy Cycling GC contenders are starting.
Given the nature of the course it's not such rich pickings in the sprint department though, as the Flèche Wallonne – which finishes with a climb – is not a sprinter's race. Currently BMC's Greg Van Avermaet is your only choice if you want a sprinter that's riding.
If you're looking at the past winners hoping to find someone to pick then good luck with that: With Mario Aerts not down to ride and Cadel Evans crocked, the only former victor down to start is Danilo di Luca. Though looking down the Wikipedia page at the list – Evans, Rebellin (the only man to win Amstel, Fleché and L-B-L in the same year), Kirchen, Valverde – gives you an idea of the kind of riders that do well in Wallonia.
The race is run by ASO, so you'll find up-to-date information on the start list at letour.fr. Best of luck with your picks!